The Covent Garden Underground Station in London has gained a reputation as one of the most haunted places in London, but who is the Covent Garden station ghost?
Covent Garden Station on the London Underground has gained an ominous reputation over the years as the most haunted station on the entire transport system.
One of the lingering spirits that frequents the station is believed to be that of William Terriss, an actor who met a tragic and untimely end just a stones throw away in 1897.
Legend has it that Terriss’s ghost haunts both Covent Garden tube station and the nearby Adelphi Theatre, where he was a renowned and beloved performer in his day. Intriguingly, Covent Garden station was built after Terriss’s brutal murder, yet his inconsolable ghost still managed to find its way there all the same.
The first chilling encounters with the phantom were documented in the early 1960s and set off a chain of uncanny events involving sightings of a forlorn ghostly figure dressed in old-fashioned clothes reminiscent of the late Victorian era when Terriss trod the boards.
The first reported encounter took place late one night in December during the busy Christmas season.
Jack Hayden, the station foreman, was alone in the staff room logging the day’s events by candlelight in the record book. He heard a sudden rap at the door which made him jump. The door creaked open slowly, and Hayden looked up to see a tall, gloomy man dressed in antiquated Victorian-style clothes standing silently in the doorway, his face obscured by shadow.
Taken aback, Hayden addressed the stranger, assuming he was a lost passenger, but received no response except the man’s mournful sighs.
When Hayden stood up and approached the man to show him to the train platforms, the figure inexplicably vanished into thin air, leaving nothing but a cold chill in his wake.
Shaken to the core, but chalking it up to fatigue and trick of the light, Hayden thought little more of the incident until the following Monday when a station porter burst into the staff room in a state of panic. The porter claimed to have just seen the same oddly dressed man Hayden had described emerging from the brick wall and leering at him menacingly before disappearing.
The traumatic sight caused the poor porter to faint, and upon being revived, he confirmed the ghastly details of the phantom’s pallid, anguished appearance. He promptly quit his job that very day, vowing to never set foot in Covent Garden Station again.
Having witnessed the spectre himself just days before, Hayden knew something unnatural was afoot and decided to report the incidents to Station Master Angus Jones.
Jones, an avid reader of Psychic News Magazine, suggested contacting them to have their team of researchers investigate the sightings and attempt to identify the restless spirit. The magazine sent their top medium, who conducted a séance in the staff room by candlelight in hopes of communing with the mystery phantom.
In the flickering glow, the medium contacted a presence she described as a tall, powerfully built man pacing anxiously in dated evening dress. After a tense exchange, the medium was struck by a vision of the man’s face – aristocratic features, domineering brow, and eyes burning with intense emotion.
From a selection of photographs of prominent Victorian figures, the medium picked out William Terriss, a famous actor stabbed to death just around the corner from the station in 1897.
William Terriss was a household name who trod the boards at London’s most prestigious theatres in the late 1800s. On the fateful night of his murder, he had been playing a lead role in the sold out play Secret Service at the Adelphi Theatre, just a few hundred yards from the underground station.
Wearing an elegant top hat and cape, Terriss bid farewell to adoring fans at the stage door after the performance when he was accosted by a rival actor named Richard Archer Prince. In a fit of jealous rage, Prince pulled a knife and stabbed Terriss to death before the eyes of screaming onlookers.
Ever since his untimely demise, rumours swirled that Terriss’ ghost haunted the Adelphi Theatre and its surroundings. The medium concluded that his wandering spirit must have somehow found its way to the nearby underground station, drawn by the energy of passing commuters and thespians alike. But why the ghost should linger so restlessly after death remained a mystery.
Over the next two years, Hayden regularly witnessed the tall phantom he nicknamed “Charlie” drifting aimlessly along the platforms and passageways late at night, always with a gloomy, faraway look. Attempts to communicate were futile, as Terriss’ specter remained aloof and unaware of attempts to interact.
Other station staff soon began reporting encounters with the mournful ghostly visitor. Late-night maintenance crews saw him pacing silently through brick walls and pondering the tracks as trains rumbled by.
The intermittent sightings proved so disturbing for some staff that the maintenance department finally banned all overnight work at the station.
Weary travellers using the station in the wee hours occasionally reported glimpsing a shadowy, Victorian-garbed figure on the foggy platforms who vanished promptly if approached or spoken to.
When Hayden was eventually promoted to Inspector and transferred to a larger station, he was quite saddened to leave the ghost he had come know so well.
However, during a nostalgic return visit to Covent Garden one autumn evening, he descended to the eastbound platform and found Terriss once again there waiting for him, pale and gleaming in the lamplight. They stood for a moment looking into one another’s eyes – the living and the dead. It seemed their curious bond was not easily broken.
Over a century after his sensational murder, the melancholy ghost of William Terriss lives on, still haunting the theatre district he knew in life. For some, his lingering spirit evokes pity and sadness at a life and career cut short. For others, he is an unsettling reminder of London’s hidden haunted history.
Either way, the dashing Victorian actor leaves an indelible impression on all who encounter his ghostly visage in the shadows of Covent Garden Station.
Covent Garden is just one stop along the London Underground said to be frequented by ghosts. Unfinished business from centuries past seems doomed to linger in the tunnels and platforms as long as trains keep running.
For every commuter rushing to catch the Tube, there may be a spectre waiting silently on the next platform over, glimpsed only briefly before vanishing into the past once more.